BRISBANE’S BIG GAY DAY: COURTNEY ACT IS IN THE HOUSE
Born in Brisbane as Shane Jenek in 1982, Courtney Act has memories of discovering who she was through Channel Ten…
“The Mardi Gras was on TV back then!” she remembers. “In the house I grew up in with mum and dad, my TV was near my bedroom door and I would stand right near the door with my finger near the button in case anyone came down the stairs and if anyone did I would quickly change the channel!”
Fast forward a few years and Courtney was out and proud on national television – although she downplays her appearance on the prime time TV show Australian Idol and says she wasn’t necessarily representing, just doing her thing.
“I loved it,” she says. “I was blissfully ignorant that there was anything different about what I was doing because I moved to Sydney when I was 18. I kind of got immersed in the worlds of gay and drag and I didn’t really think there was anything to it.”
Soon after, she released her single ‘Rub Me Wrong’, which peaked at #29. More dance singles followed, like the electro collaboration with Sam Sparro and Jake Shears on ‘Body Parts’, and on a track with a message called ‘To Russia With Love’.
“Everyone was getting angry about Russia and rightly so and about the treatment of gay people and I thought everyone was doing to Russia the concept of what Russia was doing to queer people and it didn’t quite seem the right approach. So I thought we should focus on the solution. I wrote this song ‘To Russia With Love’ and brought it out on Valentine’s Day, 2014. I loved the video too; it is one of my favourites.”
Now living in LA, she has also found herself closely following the US elections. “I’ve become obsessed with American politics, I feel the Bern! [democratic presidential nominee Bernie Sanders]. Even if he doesn’t win, I think it’s a really cool testament to the direction of American politics. I just love spreading social values. In my mind socialism equals fairness and capitalism equals selfishness.”
Another stark contrast of living in the US as opposed to Australia has been the issue of race division.
“In America there’s a completely different perspective on race and minorities and I think I was a little bit ignorant to passive racism. The term ‘pride’ is a celebration of diversity and it’s really cool to be able to extend our focus from white gay men and look at people who get overlooked like women and our Indigenous population.”
She also weighs in on Beyoncé. “When Beyoncé did her performance at Super Bowl and people were like ‘what does she think she’s doing, how dare she!’ It’s like, ‘What? Use this huge public forum to embrace her heritage?’ It’s weird that people don’t understand that that is what the function of an artist is – to comment on society.”
Courtney has plenty of comments of her own about society, including labels and marriage equality. “As much as I think in a perfect world labels wouldn’t be necessary, labels are important because they give a voice and visibility to minorities. It disenfranchises minorities when you say labels aren’t important.”
“I wasn’t out marching for marriage equality when it passed in the US. I had landed in Mexico City and it was New York Pride weekend and a boy I was dating who identified as straight texted me saying ‘did you hear marriage equality just passed?’ and I just stood in the airport crying. I didn’t realise what it meant until it happened and it wasn’t about the definition of marriage, it was about equality. It will definitely happen in Australia. But people in the US assume it already has so it’s a bit of a shock to them because we’re such a progressive country.”
Courtney was also a finalist on RuPaul’s Drag Race in 2014 and continues to record. Her new single, ‘Kaleidoscope’, is the official theme song of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras this year.
“The video has some lesbian themes. I like to push the queer envelope as much as I can. I identify as queer and gender fluid and I wanted to reflect that in this video. I did a bit of Bieber’s ‘Love Yourself’ recently so I might slip him in for Big Gay Day! In fact, I’m hoping to do a Bieber medley as well as a medley of songs from my Kaleidoscope EP.
“I love Big Gay Day! I’m a Brissy boy so it’s always fun to come home and all the twinks in Brisbane are so cute and trendy. Maybe I’ll have to find some sexy boys and some sexy girls,” she laughs.
‘Kaleidoscope’ has a bunch of dance floor remixes to get you grooving when it’s dropped next week. Courtney Act performs at Big Gay Day, Sunday, March 13, 2016.
(published 8/Mar/16 http://gaynewsnetwork.com.au/feature/brisbane-s-big-gay-day-courtney-act-is-in-the-house-20591.html and as cover feature for print edition)